Sunday, January 31, 2010

Client Appreciation Dinner Party - 2010

This past week, I held my annual, private Client Appreciation Dinner Party. To be invited to the party, invitees must have either referred me to a prospective client (closed transaction or not) or have been a recent client that I represented on a purchase or sale that closed escrow. So, you too, can be invited by referring someone you care about for expert advice on the purchase or sale of residential or commercial real estate.

As in the past, we had a dinner party at Midori Japanese Restaurant in Sunnyvale. The manager of the restaurant, Jeff, made sure we wouldn't go about disturbing other patrons by reserving their tatami room for us. Food was excellent and included a selection of tasty sushi and sashimi appetizers, soup, salad with miso dressing, a wide variety of entree combinations, dessert and beverages (including adult beverages).

Each invitee was allowed to bring an adult guest and those that attended received a gift bag with a wonderful bottle of Steven Bannus Russian River Sauvignon Blanc wine, bag of chocolate truffles from Harry and David's and a gift card to use on their next visit to Elephant Bar Restaurant. Each attendee was eligible for drawings of wonderful gifts from Crate & Barrel that were specially chosen and wrapped by my lovely wife, Carol.

A second special gold gift bag was presented to those that had referred someone to me and those clients had closed on a transaction. The gold bag included a bottle of superb Beaulieu Vineyard's BV Rutherford Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and their very own Passport Unlimited unrestricted gold membership card to save them money when dining at a great selection of fine restaurants!

Some of the invitees were attending their second or even third Client Appreciation Party!

The variety of invitees ran the gamut from first time home buyers to those referring prospective clients and came from as far away as San Francisco and included such occupations as a financial planning firm officer, architectural photographer, registered nurse, attorney, software engineer, residential mortgage and commercial loan professionals, insurance sales representative, stay-at-home mom, comedy club owner/operator along with my sons, David and Kevin, and wife, Carol. Just so you know -- she's my COO - Chief Organizing Officer! There were multiple, interesting conversations going on up and down the table on a variety of topics.

Everybody had FUN and didn't go away hungry! I know this because absolutely nobody complained!

I can't wait to have another Client Appreciation Party because I get to thank some of those that are the heart of my business. And, getting close to Valentine's Day, it makes perfect sense!

Thanks for reading my blog!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cost vs. Value Report -- 2009-2010

Remodeling Magazine, published by Hanley-Wood, LLC, Washington, D.C., has been publishing the "Cost vs. Value Report" annually for more than twenty years. The 2009-2010 version compiles information for 80 markets, (up from 79 in the last report) on 33 home improvement projects included in the analysis by HomeTech Information Systems (, which publishes estimating software for professional remodelers. This information is collected and compiled from their national network of remodeling contractors and suppliers. Adjustment factors are employed to account for regional pricing differences.

What do the latest numbers have to say? Being pragmatic seems to rule the day as lowered home values have moved remodelers to those projects which don't require, in most instances, large outlays of capital. Six of the top ten projects involve home maintenance that costs less than $14,000. A couple of more pricey projects made the list involving the expansion of livable space within and around the home.

The least expensive of the 33 projects, a mid-range entry door replacement, actually had the highest return on investment nationally at 128.9% and 128.0% in the Pacific region. Mid-range projects had the best returns overall so the if the objective is to have the possibility of a good return on money invested, the best approach is foregoing the expensive and going with the mid-range. Owners stand a better chance with mid-range projects to reap incremental value.

Higher cost estimates for projects coupled with lower resale prices have tipped the percentages to below 100% with one exception -- the previously mentioned the mid-range entry door replacement. The report's findings underscored the fact that the percentage of cost recouped on upscale additions and remodels were lower than mid-range additions and remodels. As you might suspect, many upscale projects are not undertaken using an investment return mentality.

If interested, check out the full national Cost vs. Value Report. A map on the site shows cost comparisons by region. You may click on the region to make the information more relevant to your needs. For instance, click for the Pacific region report.

Here are selected 2009-2010 mid-range projects for the Pacific region along with its average percentage of cost recouped (last report values in parentheses):

* Bathroom addition - 68% (76%)
* Deck addition (wood) - 91% (97%)
* Family room addition - 73% (75%)
* Master Suite addition - 72% (74%)
* Bathroom remodel - 77% (76%)
* Home office remodel - 56% (65%)
* Major kitchen remodel - 84% (87%)
* Minor kitchen remodel - 94% (96%)(project I have advised my clients to consider)
* Roof replacement - 68% (79%)
* Siding replacement (fiber cement) - 92% (84%)
* Windows replacement (vinyl) - 88% (94%) (project I have advised my clients to consider)

Hope this information is of help to you as you decide on remodeling projects to either enhance the value of your home for immediate reselling or to enjoy the lifestyle benefits of the improvements and have no plans to sell. Please remember that not all remodeling projects will result in higher resale values. Many folks think that someone will want to pay $100,000 more for their remodeled home that costs them $50,000 to complete. Perhaps, but it depends upon on the project, the neighborhood, the likely market conditions upon completion, and other factors. If you are considering remodeling for a sale or just want to see what projects may cost and understand the process, I recommend reading the book "Remodel or Move?" by Dan Fritschen. His website has a remodel or move calculator to help you with your decision.

For more information and to view the entire Cost vs. Value Report online, please visit Of particular note, this article includes a section devoted to the 10 Big-Impact, Low-Cost Remodeling Projects that I highly recommend you check out.

If you want a professional opinion of how the market will react to your proposed project and as a way to save time, money and hassle, please contact me. I would provide you a market assessment of your contemplated remodeling project and if you want, a referral to a licensed trades-person who can provide free estimates or just to talk it over with as you firm up your plans, please let me know. I would do this whether or not you would be doing the project for resale as I work exclusively by referral so regularly provide referrals to my clients to help them maintain or improve their homes. By the way, the only thing I get for a referral of this type is the satisfaction that you will be well-cared for by a licensed professional.

Thanks for reading Tom McEvoy's blog! Post your comment here or send me an email to

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Silicon Valley Martin Luther King Day Events & Holidays Closings Information

This is a partial list of area events celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, January, 18st.

* Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Luncheon. Keynote speaker will be Bryan Monroe, CEO of Monroe Media Group and former editorial director of Ebony magazines, speaks. 11:00am to 2:00pm, Monday, January 18st, Parkside Hall, 180 Park Avenue, San Jose. $55. 408-292-3157.

* MLK Freedom Train. Join King devotees aboard the San Francisco-bound Freedom Train on Monday for a trip to the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Leaves Diridon Station at 9:30am and makes stops in Sunnyvale, Palo Alto and San Mateo. Tickets, $10, must be purchased in advance. 408-861-5352.

* Freedom March. Public participation encouraged in a re-enactment of a civil rights march supporting King's ideals. Noon-2:00pm, February 6th, Dr. Martin King Library, 150 E. San Fernando St., San Jose. 408-808-2183.

* Treading the Dream. Live music, art and fashion shows celebrating the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Includes wine tasting and appetizers. 6:00pm-9:00pm, Sunday, January 17th. X Studio, 2147 S. 10th St., San Jose. $10-15. 408-826-2498.

* Birthday celebration. Storyteller Diane Ferlatte leads a program of stories and songs about King. 12:30, 2:00 and 3:30pm, Monday. Children's Discovery Museum, 180 Woz Way, San Jose. 408-298-5437.

* Community cleanup. Join others removing graffiti and litter from neighborhoods, parks and along Coyote Creek, 8:30am - 12:30pm, Monday. Meet at Happy Hollow Park & Zoo, 1300 Senter Road, San Jose. Must be age 12 and older. Ages 12-18 must be accompanied by an adult chaperone. 408-794-6400.

Holiday Closings: Federal, State offices will be closed. County offices in Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda, Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito all will be closed. City offices in the above counties will be closed. No mail delivery. Libraries will be closed. Schools in the above counties will be closed. Banks, title & escrow firms will be closed.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

January Silicon Valley Real Estate Market Highlights

Here are the highlights of December's transactions and market actions for Santa Clara, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Monterey counties. Your comments and questions are welcome. If you have an update as to what you are witnessing in your neighborhood, please don't hesitate to share with us. You may leave comments here, or contact me through my website.

> Market continues to show improvement -- March 2009 saw the trend change in Santa Clara County -- a trend that continues to date. Closings in Santa Clara County were 938 versus an anemic 676 in December 2008, an increase of 38.8%. Even though median prices decreased from November, seasonal factors outweigh the direction as smaller homes sell this time of year -- fully 5% smaller since last month! My analysis of the transactional information reveals:

* The supply of homes available for sale (inventory) continues to trend lower in each of the four counties without exception. This trend has been virtually uninterrupted since February 2009 and it is still more pronounced in Santa Clara and Monterey counties. Santa Clara County available homes inventory has fallen 59.7% from December 2008.

* The sale price to list price ratio continues above 100% in Santa Clara County and stands at 101.0%, continuing an upward trend; whereas, San Mateo County stands at 99.1%.

* The Days of Unsold Inventory (DUI) continues to improve generally in each county for single family residences and condos/townhouses, respectively. For December, however, we saw an uptick as the rate of sales decreased faster than the decrease in inventory. This is a normal seasonal factor that should reverse in the near future.

> Super-heated Seller's Markets? -- You bet! South San Jose, North Valley, Milpitas, Santa Teresa, East Valley, Evergreen (lower priced homes only!) are all hot markets. The characteristics of a seller's market are shorter time on the market, fewer number of homes available for sale, higher probability of multiple offers with many sale prices exceeding list prices and a tendency towards price appreciation.

> Buyer's Markets? -- For Santa Clara County, we see buyer's markets in Saratoga, Los Gatos and Los Gatos Mountains. Saratoga exhibits the highest Days of Unsold Inventory in the county at 238 due mostly to low demand and is my current "Best Buy" area in the county. To refresh you, characteristics of a buyer's market are longer time on the market, higher number of homes available for sale, lower probability of multiple offers or even an offer with most sale prices below list price. The tendency is to have price depreciation or stable prices at best case under this market condition.

Where do I get "Seller's" and "Buyer's" market information? This is not an opinion thing but a calculation I make using the number of homes for sale (supply) and the number of sales (demand) in the prior month which results in days of unsold inventory (DUI). Additionally, this is not based on price levels but a supply-demand relationship. Generally, we see that the hottest markets are those in the more affordable price areas.

> Median prices -- Santa Clara County median price for single family homes now stands at $564,000 versus $512,450 or 10.0% increase from December 2008. The median price for condos/townhouses was $357,000 or 14.2% higher than December 2008. San Mateo County's median reached $682,500, 13.1% higher than the same month a year ago. I coach my clients to not use an entire county's median price level to decide on whether to buy or sell but use the trend information in a general manner. To formulate an effective strategy, I use analysis of the supply-demand characteristics of the neighborhood under consideration.

> Sellers Be Sooner Still -- I continue to maintain my recommendation for sellers of higher-priced homes, especially those above $1 million that they should consider selling sooner and having an initially more-aggressive list price as the market usually softens when we go move into the winter/holiday season. Sellers need to be positioned properly otherwise they risk languishing on the market.

For those considering a purchase of a home in an expensive area like Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos/Monte Sereno, Saratoga, an opportune time for negotiating is upon us! Some motivated sellers are reducing their list prices but as you may know, not all sellers have to sell. Some of the prices we term "sticky" on the way down as some sellers can't believe their home has fallen in value from what they thought it was worth. As many of my consistent readers and subscribers know, markets are not made between agents.

Thanks for reading my blog. I'm Tom McEvoy, Realtor -- Let me know your comments, questions, observations you may have or any future topics you'd like me to address.

Haiti -- From A Personal View

A couple of years ago I wrote a post that mainly involved itself with a movie review. That movie, La Bamba, was interesting because they used antique cars owned by a special friend of mine. Click here if you want to take another look at it. The movie review, in my humble opinion, was good and viewing the movie brought back memories of my childhood, growing up in Los Altos.

However, later in the review, I mentioned the name of the owner of the antique cars, Donald Skow. Don, part of a delightful family, is Pastor of the Hollister Christian Fellowship Church in Hollister, California.

One of Don's passions, has been and continues to be, the care he provides to the people of Haiti. He regularly travels from California to Haiti to help those in abject poverty improve their lives and get a leg up, so to speak.

If there were ever a time to help those in Haiti, it is now.

Sketchy news accounts of the devastation from yesterday's 7.0 magnitude earthquake which rocked this impoverished country, especially around the populous capital city of Port-Au-Prince, seem almost unbelievable and certainly terrifying. Just today, it was reported that early estimates of death rates were going to be above 100,000!

Don's work -- his passion really -- is helping those people who live in an area not too far away from the Haitian capital, yet close to the epicenter of yesterday's quake. He is constantly on a quest for donations of either financial aid or basic supplies and tools. Things like school supplies, basic items for families to enable them to better their living conditions are key. Don, as well as his son, often goes there to keep the program focused and to reach more people. If you can be of help, contact Don so he can let you know what is most needed and coordinate the efficient transfer of help to those in Haiti. He has told me before that for those in Haiti, "giving a little will help a lot". Especially true now.

He said about ten days ago that his church had seen its membership grow, something difficult to do during the economic mess we're in. When he told me this, I knew the reason for his ever-increasing congregation -- his steadfast resolve in caring for those in need. He also is a personally-engaging and kind individual.

Again, please help with what you can for the sake of those in Haiti, and contact Don. He'd love to bring additional help to the Haitian people, especially now.

Donald Skow, Pastor
Hollister Christian Fellowship Church
2350-A Technology Parkway
Hollister, CA 95023
831-637-1056 (Click on "Haiti Project" for more information)

Thanks for reading this important post. I'll update you as things progress.